Gross campaign uses former Pebble CEO’s leaked statements in latest attack ad on Sen. Sullivan

The words of former Pebble Limited Partnership CEO Tom Collier are the basis for a new Al Gross attack ad against Sen. Dan Sullivan, released shortly before Collier’s resignation was announced.

On Wednesday, the Gross campaign released the ad against incumbent Republican Sullivan, using candid statements Collier made in recent secret recordings released by an environmental group as ammunition in his fight to unseat the senator.

Sullivan’s office said Collier was lying in the videos and that the Gross campaign used Collier’s words to “distort the truth” about the senator’s position on the mine.

The ad uses a recording in which Collier claimed that Sullivan is being “quiet” on the controversial proposed Pebble mine project because he is in the race against Gross.

“Right now, he’s off in a corner being quiet,” Collier said in the video. “I think that’s our plan to work with him; is leave him alone and let him be quiet.”

“He’s going to try to ride out the election and remain quiet,” Collier said.

After showing video of Collier talking, the ad states that Sullivan “hides his support for Pebble mine.”


Gross, an independent who secured the Democratic nomination, opposes the project.

On Wednesday, Sullivan’s campaign reiterated that Collier’s statements were inaccurate.

“This ad continues to highlight the great lengths Al Gross and his liberal Lower 48 donors will go to distort and truth,” Sullivan’s campaign manager, Matt Shuckerow, said in a statement Wednesday. “Senator Sullivan has made his position well known. Senator Sullivan does not believe the Pebble Project should move forward; it should not be permitted.”

“Both senators Sullivan and (Lisa) Murkowski have widely rejected the ludicrous lies made by Tom Collier. And they have both called out Al Gross for his dishonesty — which continues with his latest ad.”

[Alaska governor and senators accuse Pebble mine executives of embellishment and untruths in recorded calls]

Collier resigned Wednesday following the release of the recordings by the Environmental Investigation Agency, an environmental group that hired people to pose as potential investors in the project in video meetings with the Pebble executives in August and September.

In the videos, Collier talks about his relationship with Sullivan, Murkowski and Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, assuring the potential “investors” that Alaska’s politicians will not be a problem for the proposed mining project in the Bristol Bay region.

“Collier’s comments embellished both his and the Pebble Partnership’s relationships with elected officials and federal representatives in Alaska, including Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and senior representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," the statement from Pebble parent company Northern Dynasty said Wednesday.

“The comments were clearly offensive to these and other political, business and community leaders in the state and for this, Northern Dynasty unreservedly apologizes to all Alaskans,” the statement said.

For years, Sullivan said he supported a fair, rigorous review of the project, and at one point pushed for the Corps to extend a public comment period on the proposed mine, but the senator didn’t give a firm position on it. In late August, the Trump administration said the project, as proposed, could not be permitted under the federal Clean Water Act. Sullivan supported that finding.

“I support this conclusion — based on the best available science and a rigorous, fair process — that a federal permit cannot be issued,” Sullivan said in August.

In an interview earlier this month, Gross said he has opposed Pebble since he was a kid. He said he started commercial fishing in Bristol Bay in his 20s.

“It makes no sense at all ... to put a mine of that magnitude in the headwaters of the Nushagak, and potentially putting at risk the largest wild sockeye salmon fishery in the world,” Gross said.

Aubrey Wieber

Aubrey Wieber covers Anchorage city government, politics and general assignments for the Daily News. He previously covered the Oregon Legislature for the Salem Reporter, was a reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune and Bend Bulletin, and was a reporter and editor at the Post Register in Idaho Falls. Contact him at awieber@adn.com.